Neuroscience and Music
After investigating the hormonal requirements for musical talent (Hassler & Birbaumer, 1988) , we showed that the complexity of classical music is also reflected by an increased complexity of brain dynamics (Birbaumer, Lutzenberger et al., 1996) . In a recent fMRI study with professional musicians (Lotze, Scheler et al., 2003A) , we observed not only a distinct metabolic economisation when playing well rehearsed compositions but also a variety of neuroanatomically plausible differences between professional and non-professional violinists. In a current project, we evaluate the effect of neurofeedback on behavioural and physiological measures in a group of classically trained singers.
Functional imaging of amateur and professional musicians
In a larger fMRI study with professional musicians (Lotze et al., 2003A) , we compared the metabolic activation maps of professional and amateur violinists during execution and imagination of finger movements (left hand) of the first 16 bars of Mozart's violin concerto in G major (KV216). We observed that professional musicians showed focused cerebral activations in the contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex, the bilateral superior parietal lobes, and the ipsilateral anterior cerebellar hemisphere. The higher activity of the right primary auditory cortex of professionals during execution may reflect an increased strength of audio?motor associative connectivity. It appears that during execution of musical sequences in professionals, a higher economy of motor areas frees resources for increased connectivity between the finger sequences and auditory as well as somatosensory loops, which may account for the superior musical performance. Professionals also demonstrated more focused activation patterns during imagined musical performance. However, the auditory?motor loop was not involved during imagined performances in either musician group. It seems that the motor and auditory systems are coactivated as a consequence of musical training but only if one system (motor or auditory) becomes activated by actual movement execution or live musical auditory stimuli.
The effects of neurofeedback on classically trained singers
Within the last 15 years we've published several reports on the effect of neurofeedback, especially on slow cortical potentials (Birbaumer, 1999; Birbaumer, Elbert et al., 1990; Birbaumer & Schmidt, 2003) and on beta and theta frequencies, related to various performance parameters (Birbaumer & Wildgruber, 1975; Lutzenberger, Birbaumer et al., 1976; Lutzenberger, Birbaumer et al., 1975) . Recent studies suggest a beneficial effect of neurofeedback on musical performance, attention and subjective reports of well being in healthy music conservatory students (Egner & Gruzelier, 2004; Egner & Gruzelier, 2001; Egner & Gruzelier, 2003; Egner, Strawson et al., 2002; Egner, Zech et al., 2004; Lutzenberger, Birbaumer, & Steinmetz, 1976) . In the current project, we will further investigate the effects of neurofeedback training (NFT) on neuroplasticity, musical performance and performance anxiety in a population of professional singers and vocal students, both trained in classical singing. Outcome measures will include the evaluation of musical performance quality, acoustic, psychometric and peripheral data as well as electrophysiological and metabolic brain responses related to the degree of professionalism and to NFT.
Associated members of this project:
Boris Kleber (PhD Student)
Prof. Werner Lutzenberger
Funded by: "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft" (DFG) and the "Andrea von Braun Stiftung".
Supported by: AKG Acoustics GmbH, Austria (AKG C 477 L) and M-Audio, Germany (Firewire 410).
- Birbaumer, N. (1999). Slow cortical potentials: Plasticity, operant control, and behavioral effects. The Neuroscientist, 5 , 74-78.
- Birbaumer, N., Elbert, T., Canavan, A. G., & Rockstroh, B. (1990). Slow potentials of the cerebral cortex and behavior. Physiol Rev, 70 (1), 1-41.
- Birbaumer, N., Lutzenberger, W., Rau, H., Braun, C., & Mayer-Kress, G. (1996). Perception of music and dimensional complexity of brain activity. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, 6 (2), 267-278.
- Birbaumer, N., & Schmidt, R. F. (2003). Biologische Psychologie (5 ed.). Berlin ; Heidelberg: Springer.
- Birbaumer, N., & Wildgruber, C. (1975). Experiment on the theta activity of the human EEG. European Journal of Behavioural Analysis & Modification, 1 (2), 133-136.
- Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. (2004). EEG Biofeedback of low beta band components: frequency-specific effects on variables of attention and event-related brain potentials. Clin Neurophysiol, 115 (1), 1-9.
- Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2001). Learned self-regulation of EEG frequency components affects attention and event-related brain potentials in humans. Neuroreport, 12 (18), 4155-4159.
- Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2003). Ecological validity of neurofeedback: modulation of slow wave EEG enhances musical performance. Neuroreport, 14 (9), 1221-1224.
- Egner, T., Strawson, E., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2002). EEG signature and phenomenology of alpha/theta neurofeedback training versus mock feedback. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 27 (4), 261-270.
- Egner, T., Zech, T. F., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2004). The effects of neurofeedback training on the spectral topography of the electroencephalogram. Clin Neurophysiol, 115 (11), 2452-2460.
- Hassler, M., & Birbaumer, N. (1988). Handedness, musical abilities, and dichaptic and dichotic performance in adolescents: A longitudinal study. Developmental Neuropsychology, 4 (2), 129-145.
- Lotze, M., Scheler, G., Tan, H. R., Braun, C., & Birbaumer, N. (2003A). The musician's brain: functional imaging of amateurs and professionals during performance and imagery. Neuroimage, 20 (3), 1817-1829.
- Lutzenberger, W., Birbaumer, N., & Steinmetz, P. (1976). Simultaneous biofeedback of heart rate and frontal EMG as a pretraining for the control of EEG theta activity. Biofeedback Self Regul, 1 (4), 395-410.
- Lutzenberger, W., Birbaumer, N., & Wildgruber, C. (1975). An experiment on the feedback of the theta activity of the human EEG. European Journal of Behavioural Analysis & Modification, 1 (2), 119-126.